During the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry last week, participants held a rally in support of gun control. A delegation led by the co-chairs of the Congress, Rev. Dr. James Forbes Jr., and Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger, met with a representative of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to ask for his support for our objectives outlined in the Congress's Call (see below). While the representative declined to commit to specifics, she did say and reaffirmed in writing later that "the governor is fully committed to reducing violence in our state."
Outside, protestors heard from various individuals who had lost loved ones to gun violence. These included Jennifer Bishop Jenkins who spoke about her sister Nancy and brother-in-law Richard and their unborn child who were killed, Sarita Villarreal who brought along a photo of her late brother Antonio Marquez, and Ron Holt, a Chicago police veteran, whose son, Blair, was shot to death. A quick poll of those assembled indicated that about half had also been personally affected by gun violence.
At the end of the day, Fr. Pfleger who himself lost his foster son, Jarvis Franklin, in 1998 to stray gunfire on the streets near his parish, urged participants to be in the struggle for the long haul. He called on those from Illinois to keep calling the governor's office and to print the phone number in their church bulletins and encourage their parishioners to do the same. Unlike the NRA, he said, we may not have money "but we have moral authority. We have Holy Ghost power." Check out the SCUPE Action Alert for more information.
Pursuing the Call to be Peacemakers in a Culture of Violence, the 2011 Congress on Urban Ministry
Affirms that peacemaking is an imperative for Christians; that it is at the core of the Christian faith; that Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace is their model, exemplar and guide in this vocation;
Understands that without justice, peace is empty; that in order to achieve just-peace peacemakers must also be justice-seekers;
Grieves that many people in the United States today live in fear, often an unjustified fear of the other; and that this fear is stoked by some politicians, media and corporations to benefit their vested interests;
Proclaims the consistent message of the angels "Fear Not!" which encapsulates the core of the message of the Gospel;
Declares that it finds unacceptable that in an average year 100,000 Americans are shot or killed with a gun, that every day on average 300 Americans are victims of gun violence and that they are disproportionately African-American or Latino/a;
Opposes legislation that has already become law in many states that allows ordinary citizens to "conceal and carry" guns in public, and supports legislation that would strengthen background checks, close the so-called "gun show loopholes", prevent the sale of high-capacity semi-automatic or automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips to the general public and prevent the private sale of firearms;
Commits to "Seek peace and pursue it" by becoming effective peacemakers; joining with churches, engaging with other religious communities and with allies and partners across our cities, states and the nation.